Black Death (2010) Movie ReviewPosted: June 12, 2011
The Premise: A young monk named Osmund has fallen in love with a woman named Avril. A hard hearted and dogmatic knight named Ulrich (played by Sean Bean) arrives at the monastery and demands a guide to a remote village which is supposed to be mysteriously free of the plague. Heresey and witchcraft is suspected. Ulrich’s job is to investigate and execute any “necromancers” using any means he deems necessary. Since the swamp is in the same direction as the place where Osmund’s girlfriend is to be found, Osmund believes this is a sign from God that he ought to leave the monastery and go to be with her; he agrees to guide Ulrich and his mercenaries (complete with a wagon load of torture devices) to the swamp.
Eventually they arrive at the remote village where everything is not what it seems and horrible events unfold. Spoiler: Oswald is reunited with his love, but the reunion is not a happy one. The movie starts off bleak and ends bleaker.
The film is of modest budget (by current Hollywood standards) but the film makers do a lot with what they have. It looks like most or all of the film was shot on locations in Germany using period structures instead of building sets (and, other than one scene in which I noticed a decidedly non-period glass window in the background, this gives the film a gritty feel you probably couldn’t get from picture perfect sets). The color is intentionally desaturated and the air filled with smoke and haze while wretched looking peasants and hard looking mercenaries slop through the mud. There are no big-budget special effects and the fight scenes in the film are brutal rather than heroic. The music is spare and the dialogue terse.
The film is a thriller and seeks to set up the viewer’s expectations only to knock them down. At first the viewer thinks that Ulrich and his inquisitors must be the villains, but by the end you are not so sure. It might be ‘Name of the Rose’ meets ‘Apocalypse Now’ with a cupful of ‘The Stepford Wives’ in terms of story. Well worth a watch.